Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Each successive version of Google Android has improved on its predecessors in some fashion. The newest version is called Android Jelly Bean v4.2 and it will be making its official debut on the new Nexus 4 smartphone and the Nexus 10 tablet. This is meant to be just an incremental update to Android Jelly Bean v4.1 that was introduced on the Nexus 7 tablet, but there are actually several new features that can improve your productivity.

Yes, all of your favorite Android apps are fully supported here, so you can still do your tweeting with HootSuite and save your files to the cloud with Dropbox, but there are some new features that are built right into Android Jelly Bean v4.2 that can help you get through your day easier and more efficiently.

Google Now Update

Google Now was first introduced on Android Jelly Bean v4.1 and it’s meant to be a “smart” personal assistant. It can give you today’s weather, for example, and tell you how long it will take you to drive home from work. With Android 4.2, Google Now gains access to the data stored in your Gmail messages. It can look up flight information, hotel reservations, and shipping details, giving you timely updates on any and all of these. You’ll get told of a flight delay, for example, if you have an e-mail message with your flight confirmation in it. Have a parcel that you’re expecting? Google now can use the tracking number and direct you to the appropriate courier’s website for the latest updates too.

Gesture Typing Keyboard

New Swype-Like Gesture Typing Keyboard

New Swype-Like Gesture Typing Keyboard

I’m still partial to using a regular old QWERTY keyboard with some decent autocorrect, but an increasingly large number of people prefer the kind of interface you get with Swype. Google recognizes this and now they’ve implemented a Swype-like keyboard on Android 4.2 that they call Gesture Typing. You simply slide your finger across the keyboard from letter to letter and it will intelligently anticipate and predict the word you’re trying to type. Voice typing is better, too, and it works without a data connection.

Lock Screen Widgets

Normally, you have to get past the lock screen on your Android device before you are really able to do anything, but this can add precious seconds to your necessary tasks. With Android 4.2, Google has added the ability to utilize widgets directly from the home screen. Some of your favorite tools can be utilized in this way, making it much faster to check your email without having to unlock the phone and load up the app.


Daydream Smart Screensaver on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Daydream Smart Screensaver on Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Continuing with the notion of a “smart” lock screen with the widgets described above, Android Jelly Bean v4.2 also introduces a feature called Daydream. It’s still a little unclear about how far they can take this, but the idea is that you get a “smart” screensaver when your Android device is locked or docked. This can be a series of images from your photo albums, as shown above, but it can also pull the latest news from Google Currents. I imagine moving forward, it wouldn’t be hard to see Daydream pull up a stock ticker, sports scores, or maybe even Google Now card information.

Miracast Wi-Fi Direct

Miracast is effectively the branded name of the WiDi (Wireless Display or Wi-Fi Direct) technology that you may have experienced elsewhere. Certain Samsung smartphones and other devices, for example, have something called AllShare where you can take the video that you are currently watching on your mobile device and wirelessly “beam” it to a compatible Wi-Fi display like your networked HDTV. The same idea applies here, except it’s built right into Android 4.2. You can share movies, YouTube videos, or just about anything else, mirroring what’s on your Android smartphone onto an HDMI-enabled TV. This is great for sales presentations, for example, because it means you don’t have to fumble with messy cables and settings.

Image credit: